I’m not sure what it is about Benoa; when we visited in 2012, we were committed to the approach channel when, over the tree-line, we spotted a rather large funnel in the vicinity of our berth. It transpired it was one of the inter-island Indonesian ferries which the authorities had neglected to inform us about. It also happened to be sitting on our berth and thus I spent over 1½ hours fighting the flood tide, (there was no room to turn).
On our arrival this time, when the officer-of-the-watch called Port Control, (to inform them we were 1 hour away), the was long pause, hmmnn, not good I thought and then came the reply, “you are not berthing until 12 o’clock”. What the hell? Not again, this can’t be happening. I picked up the VHF and asked ‘what was on our berth’?; the reply “nothing, we were informed your arrival was 12, we haven’t got a pilot available” It seems I don’t have much luck with Benoa. I knew every message that had passed between our agent and the ship had a 7 a.m. pilot mentioned, so where the 12 had come from, I had not the faintest idea.
It transpired that, despite their being an operations meeting for all the concerned port officials, someone had not got the message, or forgotten it. We continued in towards the channel, having been there before, I wasn’t worried if there was no pilot, as long as there were line-handlers to tie us up. In towards the channel and lo and behold, an old dilapidated tug, (aka pilot boat) came plodding out towards us…”Boarding speed 3 knots please, Amsterdam”, Lord the tide is pushing us along at 2 knots, how on earth could we give them 3 knots? We didn’t, 5 kts seemed eminently suitable to me (and to them, it transpired).
Benoa approach has to be treated with the utmost prudence; a narrow, winding channel with no room for error. The channel itself has a dredged depth of 8 meters or 26 feet, although some areas are deeper. We happen to have the same draft, so tidal rise is essential. On our arrival, the tide was rising and we had an additional 1 meter of water to ‘play’ with. Some of the channel marks were out of position too, just to add to the fun.
In we went, all the Bridge team ‘on their toes’, going at a very sedate speed of around 4 knots, each turn being judged to keep us in the centre of the channel. As is the norm here, there were locals, standing up and fishing in places where there should be deep water 😉
Into the harbour itself and here comes the next ‘tricky’ bit; put the bow into a ‘trench’ and keep it there while one swings the stern through 90° without it going near the sandbanks astern of us; that complete, we backed into our berth and made fast.
Some time to spend ashore and in the meantime, 585 family and friends visit the ship to see their relatives, (crew working on the ship), much fun had by all. We went to the same hotel that we visited; having rung ahead, we negotiated our taxi fare with the driver and set off for Sanur, this lies on the same east coast as Benoa and a little north.
There were far more guests at the hotel than last year, I am told that European Travel agencies are having a ‘blitz’ on Bali and one can have flights + 10-days all inclusive for around €900 or $1,000′ no wonder it’s busy.
We had a lazy day, (K2 was off catching monkeys and paddling in paddy fields by the way). Us? We lounged on sun chairs, swam in the sea, in the pool and generally chilled. O and Karen shopped, how on earth could I not remember that?? 🙄
Back to the ship and we’d seen the best of the weather, a torrential downpour started as we walked up the gangway, couldn’t have timed it better.
We were scheduled to depart at 6 p.m., however you remember that tide and ‘depth’ necessity? At 6, the tide was 0.4 meters, around 20 inches, the channel would be too risky, so I waited an hour, sailing at 7 p.m. The tide by that time was up to a meter, much the same as when we entered. Again we took it slowly. A ship’s draft can be increased by a physical action, named ‘squat’. Basically, in shallow waters, the water the ship displaces cannot be replaced fast enough and the ship ‘sinks’ lower in the water as a result, (this is a very basic explanation). Speed of the ship is also a factor as well, “so me no wantee squat”, we crept out, 2 knots in fact, at that speed, squat is negligible and not a factor. Channel mark lights winking, fishing boats dashing hither and thither as we did so, a lovely evening. We disembarked our pilot and set sail for Semarang on the island of Java, steaming off the east coast of Bali, a full moon’s moon beam leading the way.